Nine Years Too Long for the Jazz
The Jazz haven’t won a Northwest Division title since the 2007-2008 season, but this year that can change. The division is wide open, with the Thunder only playing well when Westbrook triple-doubles, and the Trailblazers looking average at best, the Jazz, and it’s core of young superstars, could make a run for the crown.
It all starts and finishes with their small forward, Gordon Hayward, who has really developed into a great player. Hayward had an injury to start the season, but has come back stronger than ever, averaging 23.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, and 3.8 apg in just 18 games so far. They took a chance when they put all their trust in his young game, but it is currently paying off big time. He is joined by other young up-and-comers like Rodney Hood, Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors and Trey Lyles. One of the best parts about this Jazz team, besides that they are very young, is the fact they always seem to fly under the radar. This is the first year that they have finally been getting credit as a playoff contender, but the critics would still say they are many years away from doing anything in the playoffs. While it may be true to some extent, with how tough the West is, but they are going in the right direction and at a much faster pace than anyone could have anticipated.
They’re 8-2 in their last 10 games and are getting one of their best pieces back in the mix. Derrick Favors has been nursing a knee injury, but is back and getting back in game shape . This will help the team’s post play and will open the floor for the shooters surrounding him. The Jazz won’t catch your eye if you’re flipping through the NBA League Pass channels, but they play their own brand of basketball and it has been working for them lately and will continue to work if they stick to it.
Another thing that seems to go unnoticed, but is very impressive, about the Jazz is the success they are having is all while playing in a small market that really doesn't draw any big name free agents. When teams fall into a string of terrible seasons and they don’t have the attraction of a New York or a Miami it is so much harder to try and rebuild a franchise, making this turn around in Utah much more impressive. They did, however, bring in George Hill and Joe Johnson before the season and those have been two great pick ups. Hill has given them toughness and the ability to score from the point guard spot, while Johnson came in and brought much needed veteran guidance to a group of young players with high ceilings. The other pick up that went under the radar was when they went out and traded for Boris Diaw. Coming over from the Spurs, Diaw has the ability to guide the young players and fill in off the bench. He can stretch the floor with his three-point shooting, pass like no other big man in the league, and sometimes he can chip in and help rebound. The Jazz are doing things the right way in Utah and they are being rewarded this year. 9 years ago the Utah Jazz were the Northwest Divisional Champions and in 2017 that could happen again.